The introduction generally consists of the following elements:

  • Scene setting: The introduction usually opens with a statement about the general area of research, highlighting its importance, interest or relevance.
  • Research background: This is an overview of key studies that are directly relevant to the issue being investigated.
  • Gap: This element focuses the attention of the reader on the specific area where (further) research is needed. This element also provides the justification for the study.
  • Purpose of the study: This element outlines the aims of the study. Research questions or hypotheses may follow. There may also be references to the value of the investigation.
  • Outline: Most introductions contain an outline of the chapters or sections of the thesis or dissertation.

Useful phrases

Here are some examples of useful phrases for each of the elements of the introduction:

Scene setting:
Recently, there has been growing interest in X.
X has been extensively studied in the last decade.
Recent concerns about X have generated a considerable body of research.
Over the past three decades, X has been studied using various methods.
Considerable excitement has been generated by the discovery that ....

Research background:
Several studies have investigated ….
Researchers have identified ….
A recent survey has shown that X ….

Few attempts have been made to ….
However, these studies have not addressed the issue of ….
However, X has received little attention.

Purpose of study:
The aim of this thesis is to ….
This dissertation seeks to address the following questions:
The purpose of this thesis is to ….

This thesis is divided into four main sections.
Chapter 2 reviews existing literature in the field. Chapter 3 describes the research design.


Tip: When reading published research, make a note of useful phrases like those above. This will help you to increase your academic vocabulary.